From State Representative Linda Flores Office:
(Salem) “We’ve begun our journey which will hopefully lead to positive changes,” said State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) after the first meeting of the Student Protection Task Force today. The bi-partisan group was appointed last month to look into teachers sexually abusing students and being allowed to continue teaching; a practice known as “passing the trash.”
“There are several places we need to dig further to find out what’s contributing to this disturbing trend,” added Flores, who serves as Chair of the Task Force. “This is a great opportunity to seal the cracks in the reporting law and do a broader review into background checks, training and other areas.”
The Oregonian newspaper uncovered dozens of cases where teachers accused of sexual misconduct signed secret deals and transferred to another school district. State Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem), the Vice-Chair of the Task Force said, “I’m very uncomfortable with these confidential agreements. It appears we have laws on the books to deal with this, but we need to find the loopholes and close them.”
Representative Flores pointed out, “several parents and others have told me how concerned they are about gaps in the law that allow teachers to abuse children and move on to another teaching job.” She is impressed with the level of expertise on the Task Force.
The members include Clem, who is a member of the House Education Committee and Representatives Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) and John Huffman (R-The Dalles); also on the Education Committee. Huffman served on The Dalles-Watonka School Board for many years and fellow Task Force member Representative Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) is Chair of the Lebanon Community School Board. The Other Task Force members include Representative Deborah Boone (D-Cannon Beach), and Representative Tina Kotek (D-Portland).
The Task Force will meet several times from now until the end of the year in order to craft recommendations for the 2009 Legislative Session. The House and Senate Education Committees are also exploring possible reforms. This afternoon Flores pledged to work cooperatively with the other committees as they move forward in the coming months.